Fiji to lead Human Rights Council for the year in Geneva

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Geneva, Switzerland, January 18, 2021

Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan (Facebook)

The Human Rights Council has elected Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations to serve as its President for 2021.

Ambassador Khan, who has been Fiji’s envoy to the UN since 2014, was elected through a secret ballot process at which all the 47 members of the Geneva-based human rights body cast their vote.

The election was held as a part of the Council’s Annual Meeting and she has since taken charge of the new responsibility. The Council also comprises Ambassadors of the Bahamas, Sudan and Netherlands, who were elected Vice-Presidents of the Council in December.

The election of the fourth Vice-President, from the Eastern European Group, will take place following negotiations within the Group.

The other two contestants to the post were Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri (Bahrain) and Ulugbek Lapasov (Uzbekistan). Ms Khan received 29 votes, followed by Mr Bucheeri (14) and Mr Lapasov (4).

‘Victory for basic rights’

Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama described Ambassador Khan’s election as a victory for the basic rights of all climate-vulnerable people.

“The Fijian government’s fundamental assurance of equality for all Fijians placed human rights at the heart of our national development, leading to rapid progress at instituting rights-based protections and our historic position as the first Pacific Island Country on the Human Rights Council. Fiji’s leadership of the Council comes at a critical time for humanity, as the climate emergency threatens human rights on a global and generational scale, and Ambassador Khan is well-suited to help steer our international community towards a future of justice, decency and dignity for all peoples,” he said.

About the Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system, comprising 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The Council was created by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 to address situations of human rights violations and make recommendations.

A year later, the Council adopted its ‘Institution-Building Package’ to guide its work and set up its procedures and mechanisms.

Among them were the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism, which serves to assess the human rights situations in all United Nations Member States, the Advisory Committee which serves as the Council’s think tank providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues and the Complaint Procedure which allows individuals and organisations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council.

UN Special Procedures

The Human Rights Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and now assumed by the Council. These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and working groups that monitor, examine, advise and publicly report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries.

In creating the Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly decided that the Council’s work and functioning should be reviewed five years after it had come into existence at the level of the General Assembly.

About Nazhat Shameem Khan

Born in 1960 in Fiji, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan is a graduate in Law from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, a postgraduate in Law and a Master of Philosophy in Criminology from the University of Cambridge.

Prior to her appointment as Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN in 2014, she was a legal practitioner and legal consultant, training judges in Fiji on human rights, sentencing, and criminal justice.  She worked for 16 years as a prosecutor in Fiji and was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions of Fiji in 1994.

In 1999, she was appointed Fiji’s first woman High Court judge.

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